The Talking Dog

April 20, 2021, Unusual conviction of the plague year

Earler today, in a tense courtroom in Minneapolis, MN, former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three charges against him (murder in the second and third degree and manslaughter) for the killing last year of George Floyd. As Mr. Chauvin is white, and as Mr. Floyd was black, and as the killing was captured on video and established that Chauvin's knee was on or near Floyd's neck until Floyd passed out and died, one wonders, quite frankly, why the trial took so damned long.

The harsh reality is that in the United States it is extremely rare to even charge a police officer with murder or manslaughter for an on-duty killing (maybe 1% of the time, if that), and even more rare to obtain a conviction. And this is the case despite the fact that we give police officers literal license to kill: in the course of performing their duties, they can literally decide who lives and who doesn't, notwithstanding that, on average, police shoot and kill over 1,000 Americans each year. And while it isn't always "racial," one in one-thousand black men in the United States will end up being killed at the hands of the police.

Because of the unfortunate racial overlay of the criminal justice system, where people of color are more likely to be stopped, and then more likely to be treated violently by the police, the ultimate horrifying results speak for themselves. Black people are 3.23 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than white people.

All of these are what I will call "above the water-line" stats, that culminated last year in some of the largest protests in American history in the midst of a pandemic. But obviously, the country has broader issues, such as the impacts of mass incarceration and overall health, particularly among black people. Or the absurd gap of ten times between the wealth of the average black family and the average white family.

My point is that we have serious racial issues in this country, and the conviction of Derek Chauvin, while absolutely necessary to any semblance of justice at all, will do nothing toward addressing the broader disparities outlined above.

And yet, it is and has always been my thesis that as horrible as America's racial issues are-- and they are horrible-- they are ostensibly part of a broader distraction by which the tiny number of truly powerful people (they are also super-rich, because money and power are now synonymous in the American system of government to the highest bidder) manage to continue to execute a 400 year old "divide and conquer" technology. This is why time and again, it seems almost impossible for Americans to obtain "class solidarity" across racial lines.

And of course, while it's obvious that this is the stock and trade of the Republicans, the more right wing of the two right-wing parties in the American political duopoly, do not be fooled for one second that the Democrats are not playing the same game. And not just the obvious support for mass incarceration, the war on drugs, increased funding of ever more violent police and other policies that invariably are enforced on a racial basis, but right now, I submit to you that black people would benefit dramatically from policies such as an increased minimum wage, student loan forgiveness, universal health care, and while we're at it, increased education funding (and detached from local property taxes), and more widely available child care provisions. The problem with those things isn't that they would benefit communities of color: it is that they would (1) engender actual change and possible social mobility that might ultimately threaten the powerful and (2) cost the already affluent money that the Democratic donor base is simply not willing to spend. Fighting the culture wars, including giving lip service such as putting a "Black Lives Matter" sign on your lawn (perhaps in the Hamptons or on Martha's Vineyard) is just so much cheaper.

And so you see where I'm going: we are an insanely racially divided country, but now, it seems to be a bipartisan value to exploit this. That way, we remain a country without social mobility or anything that might threaten the ruling class (while the "middle class," now representing perhaps the 80th to 98th or 99th income/wealth percentiles desperately clings to the privileges that they still have, while the 1%, and especially the tiny fraction at the top of the 1%, pretty much sucks all the gains that the economy and the society have to offer, while the lower 80% falls further and further behind; lather, rinse, repeat, etc.)

Isn't all that wonderful? So while I am more than glad to see that Mr. Chauvin is not excused for a cold blooded murder just because he is a police officer and will get the long prison sentence he deserves, I recognize that this is just one tiny piece of a rather unattractive puzzle of the American... thing. This has been... "Unusual conviction of the plague year."

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